California Fishermen Give Lubchenco Opinions on Catch Shares

A crowd of concerned fishermen, environmentalists and others filled the chambers of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors earlier this month to share their complaints, ideas and worries with Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Catch shares are just one tool, and I believe they are a valuable tool if they are well-dispersed,” said Lubchenco.

However, many fishermen who spoke Thursday believe catch shares will mean the end of their livelihoods.

“We’ve taken such good care of our oceans, we don’t really need you,” Judith Vidaver of the Ocean Protection Coalition told Dr. Lubchenco “I suggest you take your programs somewhere else.”

“There are six trawl fishermen in Fort Bragg, and all are concerned (whether) they are going to be able to stay in business,” said Daniel Platt of Fort Bragg, while another fisherman from Fort Bragg had similar concerns.

“I take issue with catch shares being described as only one tool. According to the (Pacific Fishery Management Council), that is the tool,” said Tom Estes, who said he shares a family fleet with his sons. “The more we talk, the more frightened I get. My son says that this might be the nail in the coffin, and I agree.”

Vivian Helliwell described catch shares as “social engineering and market manipulation” that “the little guys always lose out on.” She added that they would take the “fishing out of our community,” and “mean the end of the fishing industry on the West Coast.”

Dusty Dillon, who said he was a property owner in Fort Bragg, provided the crowd with some comic relief when he suggested to Lubchenco that, “we’ve got a lot of empty buildings if you’d like to open a local office. We’re trying to revitalize our waterfront.”

Other speakers urged Lubchenco to rescind the permit NOAA recently granted to the US Navy to begin five years of “warfare testing and exercises” in the Northwest Training Range Complex, which includes Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Lubchenco then took 10 minutes to address the numerous concerns raised.

“Thank you for your heartfelt, respectful and passionate comments, which give me hope that we can find solutions for the majority of these issues,” she said. “I share many of the concerns that many of you raised, and you’ve also put new issues on our radar.”

As for catch shares, Lubchenco said, “I urge you to keep an open mind. The results depend on the design of the catch share program, which is a much more powerful tool for creating sustainable fisheries than the traditional management.